• 400 Days (2015)

    I'm glad I didn't buy into the numerous negative reviews and purchased this film that seemed to have a very intriguing plot. I must say that I even got much more than I expected. 400 Days convinces with a gloomy and mysterious atmosphere, four distinguished and interesting main characters and a challenging plot that doesn't give you all the answers. The movie actually takes its audience serious and requests multiple viewings and the use of your brain. The number of analyses, questions and theories around the movie on the internet only underlines the film's intellectual touch.

    Why did the movie get so many negative reviews then? Of course, some people might just not like it. The film doesn't have any stunning special effects like so many other science-fiction films. The film didn't have a big budget and the settings aren't much developed. While the actors and actresses are doing a solid job in my book, there isn't a particularly outstanding performance and you obviously won't find any big names involved here.

    However, I suspect that most reviewers rated this movie down because they literally didn't understand it. You can identify those people by reading sentences like ''The movie didn't have a proper ending!'', ''How is it possible that the Moon got destroyed?'' and ''The behavior of the characters doesn't make any sense!''. The movie does have a clear ending that makes you think and that makes sense once you really think about it. The explanation that the Moon got destroyed doesn't have anything to do with what's really going on. And the characters react very emotionally because three of them are receiving drugs and because specific planned events are supposed to trigger their exaggerated reactions. 

    I won't give any more information than this and there might be several similar interpretations of the film but it's important to understand the movie by looking at its whole essence and the things that are said in the beginning instead of taking every statement each character makes literally.

    If you are ready to explore a science-fiction movie with an experimental, intelligent and interpretative plot, you will be surprised by 400 Days. If you are looking for a spectacular science-fiction movie with a big budget and perfectly clear answers, you should better watch another shallow Star Wars or Star Trek sequel or stick to popcorn cinema fur juvenile minds such as Guardians of the Galaxy.

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  • Atomic Blonde (2017)

    Atomic Blonde is a stylish action-thriller set in the final weeks of the Cold War in the quirky town of Berlin. The movie has its flaws in the first third but gets progressively better and really grabs the viewer's attention by the end. Those who liked films like Hanna or Salt where a clever woman defies dangerous enemies, shady superiors and treacherous partners will adore Atomic Blonde.

    The movie had a very slow start though. The first third of the movie seems only to consist Charlize Theron's character trying out different stylish outfits and music of the eighties we are all too familiar with. The story seems to go nowhere in the beginning and only gets interesting when the main character meets a French undercover agent.

    From then on, the movie offers everything you can expect from that type of film. The story develops mysterious characters, offers numerous twists and turns and quickens up pace and tension. The fight sequences are spectacular and particularly authentic. CGI technology isn't overused and even the use of shaky cameras isn't as bad as in many other contemporary action movies. The viewers also get to explore the beautiful and ugly sides of both East and West Berlin throughout the film. It's an excellent publicity campaign for Germany's unique capital. The movie ends with a stunning showdown and once you already think it's all over, the film's resolution offers another gripping surprise.

    In the end, Atomic Blonde has a few flaws but is overall an entertaining, stylish and twisted action-thriller that will appeal to those interested in the Cold War and in movie centered around strong women. Due to its intense action sequences and very present soundtrack, the film is best enjoyed at your local movie theatre. Even though I'm usually not a fan of sequels or franchises in general, it would be interesting to see other movies involving the intriguing main character in the future.

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  • Baby Driver (2017)

    Baby Driver is an above average action movie but definitely not the perfect blend so many critics seem to see in it.

    On the positive side, the action sequences of the movie are vivid, spectacular and diversified. They also look rather realistic and don't overuse CGI technology. The last third of the movie has a great balance between an overall gloomy atmosphere and few more hopeful scenes between the characters. CJ Jones and Lily James played really likable and profound characters one could easily identify with. Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm played two quirky gangsters with their very own styles. It was also great to see Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers as a side character in this film.

    On the other side, the backstory isn't very original. The stereotype of a tough guy with a soft core because of a rough childhood is simply overused in Hollywood. The underlying message that he is still a nice guy and didn't have any choice to become a criminal is also very dangerous. Some of the characters' decisions are plain unrealistic, especially the typical Hollywood ending is filled with laughable stereotypes. Another issue is that every second Hollywood movie uses rock music of the seventies these days. While I like this type of music, it's simply wrong to praise this movie for its original style that isn't that original after all. I also thought that the middle section of the film dragged on for too long. The main character was introduced as a cool character that doesn't speak or think much but the middle section suddenly tried to give the character a more intellectual and profound touch which was completely misplaced.

    In the end, Baby Driver is without a doubt an overall entertaining, fast-paced and stylish action movie that you should enjoy at your local movie theatres. But it simply isn't anything more than that. It's the kind of movie you will enjoy while you're watching it but you probably won't remember much of it after a few months or years.

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  • Shock - Once Denied (2013)

    Shock was one of Ottawa's hardest working and most promising heavy metal bands in the late eighties that opened for international top acts such as Anthrax, Megadeth and Motörhead but the band never got the breakthrough it would have deserved and wasn't even able to record a proper studio album. The group got frustrated and called it quits in the early nineties but just like many old bands that didn't make it big back then, Shock reunited with a new line-up and finally realized one of its dearest dreams. The band finally released its first full length album called Once Denied. Without the fierce teenage ambitions that ultimately destroyed the band, Shock has now found its vocation in playing traditional heavy metal. The band might open for less famous bands such as Annihilator and Blaze Bayley nowadays but the revamped quartet performs with genuine passion. This new light-hearted approach without any big pressure on their shoulders has even led to the release of a second studio album.

    Once Denied features eight songs Shock had already written and in many cases recorded on multiple occasions on its six different demo releases during its early years. The songs are performed with energy and passion but they also show the reason why the band maybe didn't get its breakthrough back then. While the songs are great, Shock fails to add its own touch to the fierce heavy metal soundscapes. The eight tracks have a vivid flow and sound perfectly coherent but there aren't many memorable, outstanding or surprising passages in their songs. Shock is simply stated another traditional heavy metal band with occasional thrash metal influences. They don't play in the same league as other Canadian acts such as Annihilator, Anvil or Exciter despite a similar sound. Expect motivated melodic lead vocals, mid- to fast-paced thrashing tiffs, an occasional melodic guitar solo here and there and a steady rhythm section that delivers a solid job without really standing out. The best song on here is probably the album closer ''Splitting the Atom'' because it includes a few calmer and more melodic breaks that make this track more imaginative than the rest.

    Old school heavy metal maniacs and local fans from the Ottawa era will dig Once Denied and should definitely support this revamped band that hasn't lost any of its energy, passion and will after all those years. For anyone else, chances are that you are familiar with a similar local heavy metal band that didn't make the cut in the glorious eighties but still continues to do what it does best. Show your respect to these honest veterans and support your local metal community. Shock's Once Denied isn't particularly outstanding but it's genuinely entertaining and good for what it is.

    Final rating: 65%

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  • Gong fu yu jia / Kung Fu Yoga (2017)

    Kung Fu Yoga is as stereotypical as its title might suggest but despite average acting performances, artificial special effects and a weak plot, it's an entertaining, fast-paced and quirky movie that mixes stunning fight choreography, exotic settings and an intriguing mixture of Arab, Chinese and Indian cultures.

    The story revolves around India's lost Magadha treasure in Tibet that is searched by three different parties: Chinese archaeologists, descendants of Magadha royalty and a ruthless group of mercenaries led by another descendant of an Indian royalty. The plot has a few minor but overall predictable twists. While the story is overall of an average quality at best, the movie focuses on fast-paced action- adventure elements in the key of the Indiana Jones movies. Short humorous passages and mythological elements add to the genre potpourri. 

    There are a few truly memorable scenes in this movie. The opening animated history sequence is quite unusual and starts the movie on an original note to give the audience some background information. The closing dance choreography as well as the vivid soundtrack are also quite entertaining. The best part can however be found in the middle of the movie and consists of a spectacular chase through the streets of Dubai involving a vomiting lion. Despite the ridiculous idea, I haven't laughed that hard in quite a while which means that the makers of this movie have accomplished their mission.

    Kung Fu Yoga doesn't take itself too seriously and that what makes its charm. It's an entertaining movie that works best when you switch your brain off and try to enjoy the ride. It offers a colourful, exotic and explosive change from your everyday life. It also marks one of the few major collaborations between Chinese and Indian cinema and I hope to witness more occasions where these two countries join their forces. Kung Fu Yoga isn't an essential movie but an entertaining action- adventure movie for young adults and teenagers in particular.

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